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Erdogan's electoral tricks and Turkish opposition

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

13:10, 7 May 2018

Erdogan's electoral tricks and Turkish opposition

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

On the eve of the early presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey, which are scheduled for June 24, political forces opposed to President Erdogan have agreed on an alliance

13:10, 7 May 2018

Read the original text at 112.ua.

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On the eve of the early presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey, which are scheduled for June 24, political forces opposed to President Recep Erdogan agreed on an alliance. The Alliance of Principles included the center-left Republican People's Party Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (founded by Kemal Ataturk in 1919), the conservative Good Party of the former Minister of Internal Affairs Meral Akşener, Islamist Felicity Party (SAADET) of the former mayor of Sivas Temel Karamollaoğlu and the Liberal Democratic Party of the businessman Gültekin Uysal. Despite the differences in ideology and vision of the future development of Turkey, all these parties are interested in achieving the cancellation of last year's constitutional reform, according to which after the elections the mixed form of government of Turkey will be transformed into a presidential republic, and the head of state will concentrate all power in his hands. Not without a reason, Erdogan decided to hold elections for 1.5 years before the deadline. He and his moderately Islamist Justice and Development Party expect to win and monopolize power in the country as soon as possible. The diverse Turkish opposition has decided to join forces in a single fist for more effective competition with Erdogan in the upcoming elections.

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Meral Akşener

The Turkish opposition took advantage of the new law adopted in March, which allows alliances of several parties to participate in the parliamentary elections for the first time. According to Turkish legislation, the party must win at least 10% in elections to get into parliament. Now the same rule applies to alliances from several parties. The "Alliance of Principles" will be able to influence political processes if it joins the ruling coalition. The oppositionists learned a lesson from the parliamentary elections in June 2015. Then all the parties participated separately and none of them, including the Justice and Development Party, could collect enough votes to form a parliamentary majority. Unable to agree on a coalition, the authorities held early elections in November 2015, at which 49.5% of voters voted for the Erdogan’s party. The Justice and Development Party has formed a parliamentary majority; it controls 316 of the 550 seats in the Turkish parliament. All other parties are in opposition (234 seats).

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The situation with the "suspended parliament" in June 2015 could be repeated on the basis of the upcoming elections. If we believe in public opinion polls, the support resource of Erdogan's party has decreased by 2% since the last election. According to a recent poll of the ANAR agency, the Justice and Development Party is supported by 46-47% of voters. Approximately the same number of voters (46.9%) voted for the presidential party in June 2015. Opposition parties in aggregate gained 26.1% of the vote. Now the opposition has united in order to gain more votes and to claim more seats in the parliament. If you believe the latest public opinion polls, now the Republican People's Party is supported by 22-23% of voters, and Good Party – by 9-11%. At the parliamentary elections, the Alliance of Principals will come up with a single list.

The "Alliance of Principles" was formed to attract the broad sections of the population to the side of the opposition. The Republican People's Party is making a bet on the residents of large cities and the military, who support rapprochement with the West and secular government, as the first President of Turkey bequeathed. After the end of the First World War, he built a secular state on the shrapnel of the Ottoman Empire, oriented to the West. Republicans oppose mass privatization, but at the same time, they do not seek to nationalize more objects of economic activity, support an increase in social spending. For the sake of attracting the votes of supporters of economic liberalization, the Democratic Party joined the alliance. Participation in the coalition of the Felicity Party is designed to take votes from the party of Erdogan. Felicity Party positions itself as a more conservative political force than Erdogan's party and counts on supporting the religious rural population.

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According to Ukrainian journalist Osman Pashayev, who lived in Turkey, there is an agreement between the opposition parties that the winner of the third place in the presidential election will support Erdogan's rival in the second round. The competition to Erdogan's nominee might be made by Akşener, who claims the second or third place in the first round. Pashayev admits the Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry 2015, the biochemist scientist Aziz Sancar, from the Republican People's Party. He has dual American and Turkish citizenship. Republicans remain intriguing and yet do not publicly name their candidate for the post of head of state. Sancar is popular among broad sections of Turkish society, enjoys credibility with Erdogan. He is of Arab descent and was born in the Kurdish region of Mardin province. The cousin of Aziz Sancar is involved in Turkish politics and is a member of the left-wing Kurdish Democratic People's Party.

Kemalists and Democrats support the secular model of Turkey's development and the normalization of relations with the West, the Happiness Party advocates the Islamization of the country's socio-political life, opposes Turkey's integration into the EU. Unlike the Republican People's Party, the Good Party and the Democratic Party favor greater economic liberalization. It seems that during the pre-election race, parties from the Alliance of Principles decided to forget about the contradictions. However, they might be remembered in case of coming to power. Strengthening Kemalists in the political arena of Turkey meets the interests of the United States. During the years when the representatives of the Republican People's Party were in power, Turkey joined NATO and developed in the wake of US foreign policy, becoming (like Israel) the backbone of Washington in the Middle East.

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Recent changes in electoral legislation are beneficial not only to the opposition but also to the current government. Erdogan perfectly understands that his position in the Turkish society is not like the previous one. According to the April poll from MetroPOLL, Erdogan's activities are approved by 49.8% of respondents (42.1% disapprove them). Although in 2016 it was supported by 62.2% of the population. Despite the fact that Turkey continues to be one of the most dynamically developing economies in the world, the situation in the country is gradually starting to deteriorate. Turkey suffers from the inflation. Since early 2015, the Turkish lira has depreciated by 40% against the dollar. This will have a negative impact on the Turkish business, especially on small firms, whose total debt in foreign currency is $ 211 billion. Last December, loan rates in Turkey were increased from 12.25% to 12.75%. The military operation in Syria is Turkey’s budget shortfall. Not all Turks see the growing authoritarian tendencies in the political sphere, the repression of opposition and military, whom the ruling regime suspects of involvement in the attempt of a military coup. Since 2016, more than 150 thousand people were dismissed, 132 thousand people were imprisoned, 200 media resources were closed, 300 journalists were arrested. It is doubtful that all these people and their relatives will vote for Erdogan and his party at the upcoming elections.

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In order to get the parliament under control and to extend his rule for 6 years, Erdogan created the "People's Alliance" with the ultranationalist National Movement Party of former Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahçeli. Unlike the opposition, both parties will cooperate in parliamentary and presidential elections. Erdogan will be the only presidential candidate from the "People's Alliance". Ultranationalists have a solid electoral base and occupy the fourth place in the political arena of Turkey after moderate Islamists, Kemalists and left-wing Kurds. Bahçeli is the successor to the founder of the National Movement Party Alparslan Türkeş, a former military officer who advocated the creation of a strong secular Turkish state, the restoration of the geopolitical influence of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East, the strengthening of ties with Azerbaijan and the Turkic-speaking peoples of Russia and supported the fight against Kurdish separatism. Türkeş proved the superiority of the Turkish nation. In the 60's - 80's, he contributed to the struggle against the Turkish Communists.

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Devlet Bahçeli

In the present conditions, the Turkish ultranationalists benefit from an alliance with Erdogan to come to power. They are supported only by 6-8% of voters. One of Türkeş’s sons, Ahmet Kutalmış, has joined the Justice and Development Party, and the other son, Yildirim Tugrul, is a functionary of the National Movement Party. Despite the fact that political Islam is not peculiar to the Türkeş clan, in the present conditions, the blood ties between Ahmet and Yildirim played into the hands of Erdogan and Bahçeli. Previously, Alparslan Türkeş concluded situational alliances with moderate nationalists at the end of 80's - 90's. Türkeş is a real political icon, an undeniable authority for Turkish secular ultranationalists, and his ideas about strong presidential power in Turkey influenced the current political course of Erdogan.

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Left People's Democratic Party of Selahattin Demirtaş has joined none of the alliances. This political force occupies 58 seats in the Turkish parliament, and in past elections over 13% of voters voted for it. People's Democrats defend the rights of ethnic minorities in Turkey, mainly Kurds. This is a stable electorate, since over 20 million Kurds live in Turkey (the population of Turkey is 79.5 million people), not including Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Assyrians, Lazi, Circassians, Gypsies, and other national minorities. The People's Democratic Party opposes Turkish ultranationalism and seeks to overcome the split between Turks and Kurds. This party acted as an intermediary between the Turkish government and the terrorist organization of Kurdish separatists "Kurdistan Workers' Party". The People's Democratic Party opposes gender, national, religious, and racial discrimination.

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People's Democrats can influence the composition of the future coalition in the case of a "suspended parliament". However, it is not yet known who will be supported by this party. On the one hand, the People's Democratic Party has uneasy relations with the current authorities. Kurds are one of the objects of Erdogan's repressive policy. On the other hand, Erdogan's anti-Kurdish sentiment is a situational political PR to rally the Turkish society around the internal threat (the Kurdish separatists). Previously, he was more liberal about the Kurdish minority. Will the Kurds agree to an alliance with Erdogan or not? It depends on what he can offer them. Kurds took a wait-and-see attitude. Since they do not join any of the alliances, it means they do not exclude the possibility of cooperation with both Erdogan and the opposition, depending on the results of the parliamentary elections.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or 112.International and its owners

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